One may assume that a celebrity being photographed would at least have a right to make ‘fair use of the pictures they are the object of. However, in the world of internet and social media outreach, what may seem “fair” to some may not be to others—or at least what’s fair may be disputed. 

In recent times, several megastars like Katy Perry, LeBron James, Jennifer Lopez, Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham, Ariana Grande, and Justin Bieber have come across to the legal forefront for being sued over circulating photographs clicked by the media on their personal social media network that has millions of followers. On the uglier side of things, paparazzi have since long been known to be intruding privacy and getting way too far into a celebrity’s personal space for their comfort. The most recent case of internationally acclaimed singer Dua Lipa was sent a legal notice. A US court sent her one for uploading an image on her Instagram account, on the grounds that Integral Images had snapped that shot of hers at the airport, and thus they owned the copyrights to it. In another such case, Gigi Hadid was sued for copyright infringement after uploading a photo of herself taken by a paparazzi, but the complaint was rejected by the District Court of Eastern New York on procedural grounds. However, more often than not these cases are settled peacefully outside Court/best copyright lawyers in Delhi.


Section 2 (c)(i) of the Copyright Act, 1957 protects photographs under the umbrella of ‘artistic work.’ When read in parallel to Section 17 of the Act which defines an author of artistic work as its first owner, the general conclusion as per Section 2 (d) is that in the case of photographs, the photographer or their agency would be the ‘authors’, hence the first owners. The only exceptions that may exist to this assumption are also listed in Section 17 itself. 

In the case of paparazzi images, the issue of subject copyright ownership does not arise under any of these exceptions because such photographs are not made as a commissioned work or under a contract of service with the subject./copyright lawyers in Delhi.

As per the provisions of Section 14 (c) of the Act, only the photographer has a right to make his clicks public, that is, share them. Any unauthorized sharing – no matter who is in the photograph – will thus be deemed as ‘infringement’ as per Section 51. 

Section 52 does give individuals a scope to claim ‘fair use of such copyrighted photographs. Fair dealing with works (other than computer programs) for the sake of private or personal use, criticism or evaluation of a work, or reporting of current affairs or occurrences is one of the acts covered under the provision. The only purpose that might be said to apply in the instance of sharing one’s own images is “private or personal usage.”However, with social media in existence, the line between what is public and what is private becomes blurred. The High Court of Bombay has delivered a judgment in the case of Garware Plastics and Polyester Ltd. v. Telelink and Ors., whereby it was so held that the test of character of the audience would be applied to determine whether the communication that allegedly is ‘infringing’ was private or public/best trademark lawyers in Ludhiana. It was observed that private communication is sent to a small group of family members and their guests. As a result, social media posts, particularly on ‘public’ accounts like those used by celebrities, would not appear to have the luxury of being termed ‘private or personal usage.’